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                                   BY   NORA CARR

                            A PUBLICATION   OF THE

                          About This Toolkit
                            Why don’t you tell the good stories?
      How many times have you said this, either to reporters, editorial directors, or
even the television set itself? We all have, and that’s one reason the CUBE
Communications Task Force has worked to help you do a better job of telling your dis-
trict’s story, of how you are working to help all children succeed.
      Since the Communications Task Force formed in 2000, our goal has been to pro-
vide you with the tools and training you need to assist you in meeting this challenge.
Through sessions at various CUBE meetings, we have worked to provide you with
practical tips that you can take home and use in your districts.
      This toolkit is an extension of that effort. Written by Nora Carr, a school public
relations professional and frequent CUBE presenter, this publication is the result of a
fall 2003 survey of CUBE members and communications staff in CUBE and CUBE-eli-
gible districts. We held a focus group with communications professionals at our 2003
annual meeting in Charlotte, and drew on their expertise in putting together this how-
to manual.
      In these pages, we provide some nuts-and-bolts suggestions that urban school
boards — working with the superintendent and communications team — should con-
sider throughout the school year. Perhaps you will see something that makes you
think, “How can we approach this opportunity/dilemma/crisis differently?”
      “Telling Your Story” is not something to pass off to your communications direc-
tor, although he or she is welcome to see it. As a trained professional, your public
information/communications director already knows about and probably is doing
some of the exercises you will find on these next few pages. The department may not
have the necessary staff or resources to do what it needs to be successful.
      Remember, it is your story, and when you do your job better, it’s the children in
your districts who ultimately benefit.
                                                      Denise Brodsky & Jimmy Fahrenholtz,
                                               Co-Chairs, CUBE Communications Task Force

     Communications Task Force Executive Group: 2003-04
 CUBE Board Members:                          Lois Wexler, Broward County, Fla.
 Denise Brodsky, Clark County, Nev.
 Jimmy Fahrenholtz, New Orleans, La.          CUBE Staff:
 Lew Blackburn, Dallas, Texas                 Katrina Kelley, Director
 Noel Hammatt, Baton Rouge, La.               Barbara Allen, Director, Caucus and Urban
 Mary Marks, Anchorage, Alaska                Development
 Don Mayhew, Lincoln, Neb.                    Jessica Bonaiuto, CUBE Senior Manager
 Willetta Milam, Cleveland, Ohio              Judy Tucker, Coordinator
 Paul William Thomas, Tulsa, Okla.            Glenn Cook, NSBA Staff Liaison
                          Telling Your Story
              A Toolkit for Marketing Urban Education

       very urban school district has a story to tell. And usually it’s not the one

E      school leaders see teased during sweeps on local TV or plastered on the daily
       newspaper’s front page week after week.
     Every day, teachers and students are beating the
                                                               About the Author
odds and succeeding despite a host of well-publi-
cized risk factors associated with urban education.            Nora Carr is senior vice
Most city school districts also have special programs       president of public relations
                                                            for Luquire-George Andrews, a
and schools that continually churn out high achiev-         media and communications
ers. All of these can be marketed more effectively.         firm in Charlotte, N.C. The for-
                                                            mer assistant superintendent
     And, if you’re doing your jobs exceptionally           for public information for the
well as school leaders, you have more than just a           Charlotte-Mecklenburg
few pockets of excellence: you’re beginning to see          Schools, she has been a
                                                            frequent presenter at CUBE
system-wide results that are breaking poverty’s tra-        meetings on topics related to
ditional stranglehold on student achievement.               communications.
     Wherever your district is on the achievement
spectrum, you have a story to tell. It is packed with emotion and human drama. It
is something you can build a memorable brand around. However, you’re not
going to change hearts and minds by ignoring the media every time a crisis erupts,
playing partisan politics, using tired, outdated tactics, or stretching your public
information staff to the breaking point.
     You have a story to tell, and it’s a story this country desperately needs because
the very concept of public schools as we know it in a free and democratic society
rests on the success or failure of urban school systems.
     For too long, we’ve let others tell our story and define the agenda for urban
education. The bottom line is this: if you don’t tell your story, someone else will,
and you’re probably not going to like it much.
     Before we get started, however, I would like to call attention to the National
School Public Relations Association website (, which has invaluable
information on setting up and running a communications program. The Appendix
section includes NSPRA information on starting a school PR program, provides
sample policies and job descriptions, and answers frequently asked questions.

telling your story                                                                 Page 1
                      Building Your Brand
       hink about the brands you use every day. Then, think about the nation’s

T      most powerful brands, those marketing legends that are part of the
       American lexicon. Why have they succeeded in capturing the imagination
where others failed?
    ■ Starbucks = great coffee.
    ■ BET = black entertainment.
    ■ Tiffany’s = diamonds wrapped in a signature blue box.
    ■ Wal-Mart = low prices.
    ■ Mercedes Benz = precision engineering.
    ■ The Gap = casual chic.
    ■ Tide = the whitest whites.
    Brilliant brands stand for something in the mind of the consumer. When
you say the name of your school district, what’s the first thing that pops into
your mind? What’s the first thing that pops into the minds of parents, teachers,
students, Realtors, business leaders?
    Typically, there are four major image drivers in school public relations, and
the media is not one of them. Instead, it’s student achievement, the quality of
the high schools, and the reputation of the superintendent and school board.
    Most urban school districts have image problems —big ones. Don’t get dis-
couraged, though. Images, even negative ones, can be changed. But it isn’t easy,
and it’s going to take more than a new editor or slick brochures and a cable TV

  EXERCISE #1        What Is Your Brand?
    Preparation & Materials: Appoint a facilitator, preferably a community
member with brand marketing experience or a paid marketing consultant. Even
though school board members or district staff may have this expertise, it’s diffi-
cult to facilitate a session like this effectively with your colleagues or employers.
     Set up table and chairs — conference style, in a u-shape, or open square —
so everyone can see each other and the facilitator has room to roam. Everyone
participating — from board members to the executive team/cabinet — should
bring in the logo of their favorite brand, and its polar opposite or less successful

Page 2                                                             telling your story
rival. (Or have the facilitator prepare a set of these in advance and mount them
on foam core or mat board.)
     Make sure the room is comfortable and provide refreshments. Needed sup-
plies include chart pads, masking tape, and markers or overhead projector.
Appoint a note taker or have a staff member serve in this role.
     Here’s how the process should work:
     Step One: The facilitator/consultant will explain that the purpose of the
exercise is to help the district identify the core components of its brand and tell its
story more effectively. If team members are concerned that marketing is just
“smoke and mirrors” (code word for spin or lying) and a waste of taxpayer dollars,
the consultant should address those issues upfront and assure team members that
the district’s brand will be based on facts and the highest standards of ethics,
including open and truthful communications. Remind team members that pub-
lic schools can’t thrive without public support, and that everyone’s assistance is
needed if the district is going to start communicating more effectively.
     Step Two: The facilitator will ask team members to identify what each
brand stands for and why, and discuss. Can you remember the slogan or jingle
that goes with each logo/brand?
     Step Three: The facilitator will ask team members to think of your school
district as a brand. What is the first thing that pops into your mind? Follow the
basic rules of brainstorming (no debates, and no right or wrong answers) and
keep track of the responses/basic concepts and post the charts on the wall.
     If team members get stuck on concerns or negatives, remind them that the
next exercise (SWOT) will capture those, and ask them to try again, this time
articulating the school district’s brand in aspirational terms. What should the
district stand for? What’s the one thing you would like to pop into everyone’s
mind when they hear or see the school district’s logo?
     Step Four: The facilitator will use a consensus process to narrow the list to
the top five. First, combine similar ideas and/or delete duplications. Then, the
facilitator will distribute five dot stickers to each member and letting them indi-
cate their choices accordingly on the charts on the wall.
     Pick the top three to five clusters. Each team member should indicate their
choices again, this time using three dot stickers each. Continue this process until
the first, second, and third ideas choices are clear and all parties can be “live
with” them.

telling your story                                                             Page 3
                      Developing Your USP
      ike education, marketing uses jargon as

L     code words for various concepts. One
      of these is USP, or unique selling propo-
sition. What makes your district or school
                                                          Marketing Plan
                                                      1) Research: Start with public
unique, special, different or better? How do       opinion polls, communication
you capture that in just a few words? How          audits, competitive analysis,
do you give an example or paint a picture          SWOT analysis, focus groups,
                                                   issues identification, etc.
that people can grasp instantly without fur-          2) Analysis and Planning:
ther explanation? That’s your USP.                 Creative brief, strategy, identifica-
                                                   tion of audiences, tactics, goals,
     Your USP is the focus of your marketing
                                                   budgets, measures/benchmarks
program. In today’s information-saturated          and timing all become part of
world, it’s simply impossible to tell parents,     the overall action plan.
                                                      3) Communication: Develop
taxpayers, or concerned citizens everything
                                                   schedules or calendars for public
they need to know about your schools.              relations, paid media (print,
     You will have to focus on the handful of      radio, TV, online), websites, spe-
                                                   cial events, collateral materials,
key messages you want every single person          and the execution of all action
to know. You need to be able to clearly            plans and the deployment of tac-
define and articulate what sets you apart in       tics on time, on budget, at or
                                                   above expected quality with mid-
the marketplace and why parents should             course adjustments as needed.
care enough to send their children to you,            4) Evaluation: Measures and
and why taxpayers should fund public edu-          insights feed back into planning
                                                   process for continued improve-
cation.                                            ment. What worked? What did-
     Clearly, for urban schools, diversity is      n’t? Why? What can you improve
                                                   upon next time? Any surprises?
both a challenge and an asset. Quit hiding
your diversity: celebrate it! Business leaders
know that tomorrow’s workforce is going to be increasingly diverse. Kids who
have successfully navigated multicultural environments have a distinct advan-
tage over those who have attended single race schools.
     Most public schools also have great advantages over private and parochial
schools in the depth and breadth of the academic curriculum.
     Typically, only top tier nonpublic schools offer six or more years of foreign
language, instrumental music, or art. Few offer more than a handful of
Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses, and special educa-

Page 4                                                                telling your story
tion and English as a second language are virtually non-existent.
     While some charter schools offer special themes, few can match the special-
ized curriculum and community-based experiences offered by full-fledged mag-
net schools, business partnerships, or a strong ROTC program.
     Find what makes you different, and focus relentlessly on that key message
that captures the essence of what your district stands for and why.

  EXERCISE #2        Brand SWOT Analysis
    Here’s a quick exercise that will help you and your team begin identifying
your USP. Here’s where you begin to fill in some of the detail that you’ll use to
market your district more effectively, while continuing to address problems and
concerns through the district’s strategic plan.
    Remember, strengths and weaknesses tend to be internal; opportunities and
threats tend to be external. Be brutally honest, and make sure you can back up
your strengths and opportunities with real data and examples, as those two
items will serve as the basis of your marketing program.





telling your story                                                        Page 5
         Overcoming Marketing Challenges
        ompared to marketing detergent, toothpaste, insulated windows, and

C       floor tile, selling public education effectively should be a snap. What
        could be more important, or have more emotional connection, than
something that affects the lives of children every single day? So why is it so dif-
     The quality of the product is obviously an issue. An old marketing adage
says that “nothing kills a bad product faster than advertising.” In today’s “no
excuses” economy, accountability is at an all-time high in every industry. Right
or wrong, test scores are the measure of success in education.
     If most students aren’t on grade level, parents and the public don’t care if
they’re poor, don’t speak English, rarely attend, or qualify for special education
services. They still expect you to get your jobs done.
     Yes, we can and should do a better job of explaining the complex context in
which we operate, and funding is always an issue. But we can’t use these factors
as excuses for failure. Defensiveness never sells anything.
     People will forgive mistakes, and they’ll support change if they believe you
truly have the best interests of children at heart and are willing to do whatever it
takes to make things better. However, if you don’t bring them along with you,
don’t communicate, or don’t deliver on your promises, they’ll eat you alive.

                    Packaging Your Story
        ow that you’ve identified the key components of your story, you need to

N       spend some time packaging it in a truly memorable way that will help
        your district cut through the information clutter that daily confronts
every single person you’re trying to communicate with.
     If you’ve identified student achievement as one of your key strengths, for
example, illustrate your school system’s success by sharing data and factoids
that support this premise.
     At Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), for example, we developed a set
of “wow facts,” examples that could be cited during every community meeting
or speech that lift eyebrows and cause skeptics to say, “I didn’t know that.”

Page 6                                                            telling your story
     Here’s a sampling:
     ■ “CMS ranks first in the state and second in the nation for the number of
teachers with National Board Certification. This is the educational equivalent of
passing the bar exam, earning a CPA, or becoming board-certified in a medical
     ■ “The top 10 percent of CMS students outperform their peers on the SAT,
statewide and nationally.”
     ■ “14 CMS high schools were ranked among the top 500 high schools in the
United States for academic rigor by Newsweek out of more than 25,000 high
schools. Two CMS high schools made the top 100. One high school, Meyers
Park, was ranked seventh.”
     Good data isn’t enough, however. Good stories are memorable, personable,
simple, and powerful. Good stories tug at the emotions and inspire us to take
action. Good stories help us see our role more clearly and make us want to help
ourselves, or the people in the story.
     Like good teachers, good storytellers use symbols and analogies to convey
key concepts and bring stories to life. And they rarely rely on just one method of

                 Results-Driven Marketing
       ffective marketing doesn’t happen without research and strategic plan-

E      ning. And, while entire books have been written on this subject (some are
       listed in the resource guide included in this publication), most strategic
communications plans include the following four components: Research,
Analysis and Planning, Communication, and Evaluation.
     Each component should be tied together. For example, if research shows
that parents find communications from principals more believable than district
newsletters or television more accessible than newspapers, the overall market-
ing strategy and tactics should reflect this information.
     Audiences should be clearly identified as specifically as possible. Rather
than lumping all parents together in one group and taking a “one-size-fits-all”
approach to communications, you will be more effective if you take various
demographic factors into account, including cultural differences, education
level, socioeconomic status, language barriers, PTA/PTO involvement, etc.

telling your story                                                        Page 7
      Some parents will read everything they
can get their hands on and still want more           Tips Worth Telling
information and details. Others would rather
                                                      ■ A picture tells a thousand
talk to someone they trust, a principal, neigh-    words. Use high-quality, tightly
bor, pastor, or friend. Some will surf the web-    cropped photos of children, teach-
                                                   ers, parents, business leaders,
site, others will tune into urban or Latino
                                                   and community volunteers to con-
radio.                                             vey what words cannot. The school
      When it comes to communication prefer-       building, no matter how magnifi-
                                                   cent, does not belong on the front
ences, there aren’t any right or wrong             cover of a brochure or as the lead
answers. Wise marketers take a multiple            photo on a website. It’s what hap-
                                                   pens inside the school that
intelligences or learning styles approach to       counts. If you have a new or reno-
communication.                                     vated building, show it off. Just
      Like students, parents and other key         don’t confuse it with your primary
                                                   marketing message or image.
audiences access information in different             ■ Less is more. 200-page cur-
ways. Relying on a one-time memo sent home         riculum guides may be helpful to
                                                   teachers but are of little use to
in backpacks to communicate with parents is        parents. Wordy memos, letters,
like asking all children to read a chapter once    brochures, newsletters, fliers,
                                                   posters, and advertisements just
and then take a test on the content, without
                                                   add to the clutter. Writing too long
any instruction, homework, or hands-on expe-       and trying to convey too much are
rience. The vast majority will fail.               probably the greatest weaknesses
                                                   of most school marketing materi-
      The best school marketing plans use a        als. Powerful marketing is pro-
mix of communication channels, from pot-           foundly simple. 30 seconds of
                                                   “wow” are better than 30 minutes
luck suppers, school newsletters, and com-         of boring footage or pages of copy.
munity events to full-blown campaigns that            ■ Bypass gatekeepers and go
combine websites, paid advertisements, and         direct. If you can’t reach everyone
                                                   you need to reach in 30 minutes
well-placed news and feature stories.              or less, you don’t have the right
      One-on-one, face-to-face communication       communications infrastructure in
                                                   place. Thanks to the Internet and
is still the most effective in terms of generat-   related technologies, communica-
ing real understanding, followed by small-         tion today is instantaneous. When
                                                   good news occurs or a crisis hits,
group meetings that are still highly interac-
                                                   you don’t have time to write let-
tive and, finally, public speaking in front of     ters or put out a newsletter, but
large groups.                                      you probably can find five minutes
                                                   to write and send a quick e-mail. If
      No matter how big your district is or        you want to tell your story your
how complex the communication challenge,           way, you need to reach people
                                                   fast, before they hear about it on
try to build some of these more personal

Page 8                                                              telling your story
                                          activities into your plan. The communica-
 the news or from the politician
 who continually makes headlines          tions staff should make it easier for school
 by bashing the schools. Every            board members and other staff to present a
 superintendent should have
 access to an up-to-date database         consistent message and image by preparing
 that includes school board mem-          several presentation toolkits in advance.
 bers, employees, PTO presidents,
 elected officials, business, and
                                                Each toolkit should include a
 faith and community leaders.             PowerPoint presentation about the district
     ■ Leverage existing channels         on CD or a short (three to five minutes tops)
 of communication. Most school
 leaders have more communica-             video, plus a script, overheads, handout
 tions firepower at their fingertips      masters, a stack of fact cards (wallet size
 than they realize. Meetings,
 memos, letterhead, fax cover             reminders of key districts stats and “wow”
 sheets, folders, notebooks, bulletin     facts), and “request for more information”
 boards, marquees, signage, main-
                                          sheets. The kits should be stored in a self-
 tenance trucks, security cars, web-
 sites, and district-run radio stations   service closet to minimize staff time.
 and cable television channels all              Also, it’s not fair or realistic to expect
 provide untapped marketing oppor-
 tunities. If the media won’t share       parents to always come to you. Often, rather
 your good news, share it yourself,       than plan another event you have to market,
 beginning with an e-mail blast and
 the district’s homepage. If it’s
                                          it’s easier and more effective to simply go
 important, deploy every channel of       where the parents already are, whether it’s
 communication you have while pro-        the neighborhood church, temple or syna-
 viding message points and guide-
 lines to ensure accuracy.                gogue, a soccer match or the local Wal-Mart
     ■ Consistency is king. Spread        store.
 an array of these materials on the
 board room table. Is there a con-              The communications staff should trans-
 sistent look, feel, and color? Do        late all materials into the major languages
 the fonts match? Is the same logo
                                          spoken by parents and students and host all
 used? Do the materials look pro-
 fessional? Are the sizes of the          meetings in wheelchair-accessible locations
 brochures, fliers, and posters con-      on public transportation routes. Provide
 sistent? Is your messaging posi-
 tive, consistent, compelling, and        translators when needed, and provide access
 powerful? Does the theme or slo-         for people with disabilities via Braille,
 gan change with every piece?
 What image is conveyed? Does it
                                          sound amplifiers, etc.
 match the key messages you iden-               Schedule your program and time it
 tified previously? If you answered       appropriately. Busy, time-pressed consumers,
 “no” to any of these questions,
 you have a brand image problem           including parents, have limited attention
 that’s not caused by educational         spans and will need multiple reminders about
 or school-related concerns.
                                          important deadlines, dates, and procedures.

telling your story                                                                Page 9
     Timing is also important. If you’re marketing an event, for example, the first
invitation should go out at least six weeks in advance, with additional commu-
nications following almost daily. If you launch the event too soon, people will
lose interest. If you launch it too late, they won’t have time to make arrange-
ments to attend.
     Marketing a district or an individual school requires an ongoing, year-
round program that is bolstered periodically by individual campaigns aimed at
specific needs or goals such as teacher recruitment, magnet school applications,
budget adoptions, finance elections, or school choice deadlines.
     There’s a classic military anecdote that says, “Officers tend to get what they
expect.” The same is true for marketing. Set benchmarks that help you gauge
the effectiveness of your plan as it is being executed, and set measures that will
help you determine whether your program was successful in garnering the
desired results.

               Proactive Media Relations
   f you want better news coverage, you need to pitch more stories and work on

I  building better relationships with reporters. It really is that simple — and that
     Glenn Cook, managing editor of American School Board Journal and staff liai-
son to the CUBE Communications Task Force, surveyed education reporters,
communications staff, and board members across the country to find out how
school communicators could do a better job of media relations.
     What the vast majority of media suggested really boils down to professional
courtesy: return phone calls promptly, find the answers to questions (or at least
try to do so), and understand the deadlines and time pressures reporters face.
     In urban school systems, however, providing timely, accurate information is
often easier said than done. Many times, competent public information officers
are hamstrung by overly restrictive policies regarding media access and a “circle
the wagons” mentality.
     While the first and primary job of any school is education, providing rea-
sonable access to classroom activities, teachers, principals, and students makes
for better media relations and more positive news coverage.
     Competition is fierce in the news business, and the explosion of 24-7 news

Page 10                                                           telling your story
channels and websites has greatly expanded the traditional news hole.
Education is on everyone’s radar because it’s one of the few issues that appeals
to and affects nearly all demographic groups.
     The new news media are ruled by “what’s entertaining, not by what’s
newsworthy,” according to Stephen Knagg, director of communications for the
Garland, Texas, Independent School District.
     Knagg and other school public relations experts say that developing person-
al relationships with reporters is the key to effective media relations.
     “Reporters, despite what you may think, are human, too,” says Cook.
“They make mistakes, sometimes more than their share. They can allow person-
al experience or feelings to cloud their questioning. They also can be the best
and most reliable compatriots you have ever had.”
     Reporters distinguish themselves by being first and/or providing more or
different information than their competitors, according to Cook. “That is their
job,” says Cook. “If you are contacted, your job is to make sure the reporter is
able to do his job without hurting you.”
     Cook recommends responding quickly to reporters and giving them what
they need to get the job done — not necessarily everything they want, unless
public records are involved. Cook also urges school leaders to respect reporters’
deadlines and to make themselves accessible when the news is bad, as well as
when it’s good.
     “Realize that the media need production and writing time,” says Cook.
“Remember, silly mistakes usually occur for one of two reasons: 1) The reporter
is not knowledgeable about the topic that is being written about; or 2) the
reporter doesn’t have enough time to appropriately check for facts.”
     Pitching story ideas to reporters takes time and research. Stretched thin by
internal deadlines and demands, the communications/public information staff
can find it challenging to visit schools and classrooms to dig out the human
interest angles and data that make compelling stories for print, radio and TV.
     Look for how national trends are playing out locally, and share that infor-
mation with reporters. When a national study regarding important education
issues is released, prepare a district response and send it to the reporters cover-
ing your school system.
     Celebrate district successes by hosting press conferences and special events
tied to the release of student achievement data, scholarship announcements, and

telling your story                                                        Page 11
other major news.
     Make sure to provide “sound” for radio and “visuals” for television.
Colorful banners, balloons, signs, and charts along with an articulate person to
interview and a backgrounder or fact sheet provide a complete media package.
     It may be frustrating, but the reality is that much of what we do in schools
— while vitally important — simply isn’t news. Adding news value and secur-
ing coverage for teachers and students who are performing well takes persever-
ance and determination.
     When it comes to getting positive coverage, volume and frequency matter.
You don’t want to overwhelm reporters and editors with fluff, but you do want
to provide them with news and story angles they don’t get anywhere else.

             Dealing With Negative News
        onflict sells. By its very nature,

C       news focuses on the unusual,
        new, negative, or different.
     The news value of any particular
                                                 Crisis Tips: The Basics
                                                 ■ Make your friends before you
                                              need them, including reporters.
story is often judged by the number of           ■ Have a plan and use it.
people it affects and its human interest         ■ Take care of students and staff
appeal. If you want to capture the inter-        ■ Provide on-site assistance.
est of reporters and editors, you need to        ■ Confirm all information three
package your story in ways that address       times before sharing with employees,
                                              reporters and the public.
their concerns.                                  ■ Designate one spokesperson.
     A story that normally wouldn’t see          ■ Leverage your own communica-
                                              tion channels.
the light of day can become page one
                                                 ■ Feed the media regularly and
news or the lead newscasts on every           keep them contained in one location.
local television station on a slow news          ■ Try to get the bad news over in
                                              one news cycle (typically 24 hours).
day. This is a good news/bad news sce-           ■ Expect all skeletons to come out
nario for urban school leaders.               of the closet and prepare accordingly.
     The good news is you may be able            ■ Anticipate the hard questions
                                              and draft solid answers.
to get soft news like a feature on a new         ■ You have more power than you
arts program or student performance           think you do: use it!
covered on a slow news day. The bad
news is that even small incidents will receive major air time.

Page 12                                                             telling your story
     Stories involving victims, crime, controversy, or conflict are especially com-
pelling in today’s “news as entertainment” formats.
     Bad news travels quickly, so make sure you have a solid crisis management
plan in place, one that enables you to respond
quickly and proactively to media queries.
     Sweeps — the ratings period that determines           Getting ready to
a newscast’s advertising value — occur every               do an interview?
February, May, and November. As public entities,
                                                           ■ Prepare and practice 2-3
school systems make attractive targets for expos-       message points in advance.
es. School systems have reams of data, thousands        Bridge from the reporters’
                                                        questions to your message
of documents and frequent meetings — all of             points whenever possible.
which are a matter of public record.                       ■ Relax and keep your
     If an investigative team is looking into your      expression open. Stand or sit
                                                        in a comfortable position,
finances, special education services, bus safety        and use gestures if you nor-
records, or health inspections, you can expect a        mally do so. Don’t sit behind
                                                        your desk during an interview
negative news story or series.
                                                        unless you want to look
     In these situations, sometimes your best           bureaucratic and arrogant.
strategy is to minimize staff time by making the           ■ Avoid condescending
                                                        remarks and don’t use jar-
records available and issuing a prepared state-         gon. Practice speaking in 7-
ment.                                                   10 second sound bites, and
     Reporters may want on-camera interviews            be friendly, firm and fair.
                                                           ■ Do not lie. You will get
and “b-roll” (background footage), but you’re not       caught. If you don’t know the
obligated to provide it. And giving reporters           answer, don’t guess. Tell the
                                                        reporter you need to check
what they want may just make the story longer.          the facts and will get back to
     Many times, cooperating fully with reporters       him or her promptly.
is the best way to go. However, if a reporter or           ■ “No comment” usually
                                                        means “guilty as sin” to
news outlet consistently shows bias, disregards         reporters and the public.
facts that don’t fit a preconceived agenda or           Avoid it — just like you avoid
                                                        cliches — “like the plague.”
story, and generally ignores core journalism pre-
cepts like balance, fairness, and accuracy, it has
lost the right to expect any professional courtesy.
     All news outlets are not created equal. Invest your time in legitimate news
sources where you have a better chance of getting a fair shake. Resist the urge to
get in the mud with sensational or tabloid-style journalists and political foes. Fight
back by proactively telling your story, not by responding to every allegation.

telling your story                                                           Page 13
        Provide Communications Training
           ilitary generals know that war involves a certain amount of chaos, and

M          that even the best plans will go awry. Changing the pervasive, nega-
           tive perception of urban education takes sophisticated planning, flaw-
less execution, dogged determination, and military precision.
     That’s why training is so important. No plan can anticipate everything that
will occur, but trained professionals will know how to respond when something
unanticipated happens and will make better decisions under fire.
     Educators may have advanced degrees and extensive professional experi-
ence, but very few have much, if any, training in communications, community
relations, advertising, marketing, and public relations.
     Even fewer go into education anticipating the life-and-death scenarios and
human drama urban teachers confront on a daily basis. If your district is not
doing so already, the communications staff should start providing professional
development in crisis communications, intervention, and prevention, as well as
school marketing and public relations.
     Offer media training and provide insight into multicultural communication
and guidance for more effective communication with parents and community
members. This training will help school board members, administrators, and
teachers master the art of the sound bite, which today averages only 7-10 sec-
onds long.
     Most importantly, as board members, you can help educators understand
that they need to market their schools and their profession as if their lives and
livelihoods depended upon it, for indeed they do. Public schools can’t exist
without public support. And if most national polls are accurate, public educa-
tion in general — and urban education in particular — is in serious trouble.

  What Should I Do? A Few Suggestions
       ell your story and market your schools aggressively. School board mem-

T      bers serve on the front lines of effective communication. Seize every
       opportunity to share your district’s successes and enlist community mem-
bers in making a difference for children.

Page 14                                                         telling your story
     School board members around the country frequently express frustration
that the communications team or effort is reactive, rather than proactive. Many
times, however, this is more a function of budget and limited staff resources
than of attitude or expertise.
     School board members, superintendents, and public information officers
need to be on the same team, and on the same page, as much as humanly possi-
     Public information officers should proactively support the work that you
do. As school board members, you’re a vital member of the school communica-
tions team.
     Remember: If you don’t look good, no one looks good.
     So how do we do this?
     We have to find those human interest stories—those compelling news hooks
that showcase our students and teachers, and the challenges they face.
     Tell people about the principal who checks the playground every fall when
the weather gets cold to see which students need winter coats.
     Invite the media and business leaders in to see the art teacher who volun-
teers her free period to tutor special education students, the biology teacher who
inspires all of his students to pass the AP exam, or the principal who has man-
aged to get all of her students reading on grade level despite a 98 percent free
and reduced-price lunch count.
     Create a magazine news show for cable television that highlights some of
the amazing students you have, like the first generation immigrant from
Nicaragua who came to you at age 10 without any formal schooling and no
English proficiency who is now graduating as class valedictorian and will
attend an Ivy League school.
     Get there first, with the good news and the bad. When you succeed, let peo-
ple know. Celebrate outstanding teachers and students on billboards, host
booths at community fairs, and develop an advertising campaign to compete
head-on for students with area private and parochial schools.
     Create a series of first-class special events that highlight student and staff
achievements. Invite Realtors, business leaders, and community officials.
Challenge them to get involved with the schools.
     If there’s a problem, face it head on. Use your communications infrastruc-
ture to get the word out quickly, before it gets twisted out of recognition by the

telling your story                                                        Page 15
news media or other naysayers.
     If the board or district stumbles, apologize quickly and tell people what
you’re doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Then follow through.
     Create a brand identity. If you’re district logo looks like something from the
1950s or is a victim of desktop publishing disease, hire a marketing firm to
design a new one that captures your brand identity.
     If you’re using a different theme each month or year, hire that same firm to
develop a short, pithy, and memorable tagline that stands the test of time — one
you’ll be just as proud of five years from now as you are today.
     Develop image standards, publication guidelines, and key messages and
hold everyone, from the school board on down, accountable for using them.
     A word of caution: Compelling logos and brand identities are not designed
by committee or by unproven talents with artistic tendencies.
     There’s an art and science to brand building. Get a business partner to fund
the project and hire a professional. This is not the time to ask for volunteers.
     If you pay for a new logo and don’t like what the designer produces, the
professional relationship dictates additional options. It’s hard to say no to vol-
unteers, and your brand image is too important to leave to someone who does-
n’t do this for a living.
     Work in public, fight in private. Let’s be honest: Much of the bad press
about urban education is generated by school board members who are more
interested in seeking the media spotlight than working together to solve the
complex issues we face.
     A photo-op, speech, or brochure can’t fix infighting, partisan politics,
grandstanding, failing to show respect to board members with whom you dis-
agree, leaking confidential private and confidential information, planting half-
truths, negative personal attacks, protecting pet employees, playing to the cam-
eras during board meetings, and e-mailing the media at the same time you
e-mail the superintendent.
     I’m not asking you to be a rubber stamp for the superintendent or to agree
all the time. Democracy thrives with the free and open exchange of ideas. And
we all know that democracy is messy—sometimes, it’s very messy.
     But personal, mean-spirited, divisive behavior has no place in the board
room. Like Pogo, we have met the enemy, and it is us. If behavior gets us into
trouble, words aren’t going to get us out of it.

Page 16                                                           telling your story
     The board’s job is to set policy and hire — or fire — the superintendent. It’s
the superintendent’s job to run the schools. We’ve all heard that a million times,
but if it’s so simple, why do so many of us have a hard time doing it?
     View communications as an investment, not an expense. If you spend
$30,000 to $50,000 on a direct mail piece that targets nonpublic-school students
and their parents, for example, you only need to recruit six new students to
recoup those costs.
     Using a conservative, $5,000 per-student figure, those six students would
generate $30,000 the first year and approximately $300,000 in tax revenue (not
accounting for inflation or increases in per-pupil expenditures) for your schools
during their K-12 school careers.
     Your competition recognizes the value of marketing. That’s why many of
the more prestigious private schools have a larger public relations staff for one
school than many urban school systems have for an entire district. (Of course
they call them something different — development officers, student recruiters,
community relations directors, alumnae specialists — but the roles are similar.)
     Support strategic communications through board goals, policies, and budg-
ets. Most urban school boards already have communication — in some form —
as a top goal.
     Now, you need to back it up, with policies and procedures governing every-
thing from who speaks for the board — and when — to how the district will
handle communications with employees, the community and the media.
     Budgets may be stretched to the breaking point, but cutting communica-
tions or simply starving it to death is like cutting off your toes, and then trying
to run a marathon. Not only will you fail, you’ll fall flat on your face, even if the
rest of your body is in prime physical condition.
     Even the nation’s best PR people will fail if not given adequate staff, budg-
et, and equipment. Next to high school principals, school board members,
superintendents, and public information officers have the toughest jobs in
America. Work together, support each other, and trust each other.
     Hire strategic public relations counselors for your top communications posi-
tions and place those individuals high enough in the organization so they have
access to the information and people they need to do their jobs effectively.
     Get trained professionals who know what they’re doing and who are strong
enough to push through the bureaucracy that often gets in the way of open

telling your story                                                          Page 17
communications. You need someone who is willing to stick his or her neck out
on a regular basis, someone who steps up when every human instinct says,
“Run for your lives!”
      Many times school board members serve as the public face of the organiza-
tion, along with the superintendent. You need communications guidance and
support from the public information office, including message points, speeches,
presentations, handout materials and media training.
      Any request for assistance, however, needs to come through the superin-
tendent and needs to be focused on district — not personal or political — busi-
ness. It’s simply not fair, nor is it ethical professional practice, to put PR people
and other administrative staff in the middle of competing priorities and agen-
      Boards and superintendents also need to recognize the unrealistic and often
overwhelming demands placed on the typical urban school communications
officer or public relations director.
      Staff public information appropriately. Each urban public information office
should have enough staff to divide into at least two teams for media relations:
the good news squad that daily seeks out and places positive news stories about
the schools and the media response team that deals with incoming media
queries and the daily negative issues and mini-crises that pop up in every city
school system.
      It is simply too hard for the same staff to perform both functions well, and
given the tyranny of the urgent, it’s the proactive side that usually suffers. The
proactive team can also feed good news stories to the district website team,
cable television channel, education trade publications, and the community rela-
tions team.
      You also need at least one person to handle internal communications and
another to handle external or marketing communications, although having a
team of five to 10 people for each of these functions is preferable.
      If the same person or small group of people is trying to handle all of these
functions, you’ve set them up for failure. It’s the school board’s job to help the
community understand why these positions are needed, and it’s the superinten-
dent’s job to make sure the communication function is well-managed and effec-

Page 18                                                             telling your story
                              Appendix 1:
              Getting a Public Relations Program Started

    The following is reprinted with permission from the “Starting a PR Program” section
of the National School Public Relations Association website (

    At NSPRA we are often asked what is the best way to start a public relations pro-
gram for a school district or a school. And even more frequently we are asked, "How
can you get us out of this horrible public relations situation we are in?"
    Getting started is often difficult because critics say you shouldn't use tax dollars for
"puffery," "spin doctoring," and techniques to make individuals like board members
and superintendents look good. And in these cases, NSPRA agrees with these critics.
    Public relations needs to be in the public's interest. It needs to be grounded in solid
two-way communication techniques and used as a vehicle to build trust, confidence
and support for doing the best for all children in our schools. NSPRA firmly believes
that school systems and schools have a Public Responsibility to tell parents and taxpay-
ers how the schools are spending their money, and seeking their insight on helping the
school district deliver high quality and an efficient educational program. The public
has a right to know and be engaged in their schools. And they need someone in the
schools trained in communication so they can get clear answers and guidance on how
to work with their schools.
    The following are ways some school systems have started PR programs:
    ■    The school board forms a public relations or communications committee of the
         board. This committee, composed of board members and staff (central office and
         building representatives) begins looking at ways communication needs to be
         improved or enhanced in the school district. Such committees often seek input
         from NSPRA to demonstrate how other similar school systems are practicing
         public relations. A report is eventually made on why more needs to be done and it
         recommends ways of gradually implementing a school PR program.
    ■    The Superintendent recommends that a study be completed, such as a com-
         munication audit, to assess what the communication needs of the system are.
         Normally, a professional communication consultant or firm conducts such an
         audit to give the system an outside and objective view of what needs to be
         done to start an effective program. NSPRA also offers this service to school
         systems and other education agencies.
    ■    An upcoming bond issue referendum has increased the need for the school
         district to tell "its side of the story." Sometimes consultants are hired to assist a
         community committee to begin a communications effort. Soon it becomes
         apparent to all involved that such a communication effort can't just be for a
         referendum as impressions are made every day in a school system. Often, the
         effort begins with a consultant or a part-time person doing the public relations
         work. (Note: Be sure to hire the right consultant or part-time person; public
         relations calls for a professional trained in all aspects of communication. Make
         sure you hire someone with this appropriate background and or experience.)

telling your story                                                                  Page 19
   ■     An issue, decision, or crisis have incensed and split your community, and you
         need help in putting the schools and community back together. Once again,
         consultants are often called in to assist with this situation and the eventual
         realization is that "if we had a proactive approach to public relations, we
         wouldn't have had this monster of a problem to begin with." This realization
         often leads to hiring or contracting with someone to plan and implement an
         ongoing and proactive communication for the school system.
   Sometimes these new positions are split with other duties for the school system
such as foundation coordinator, grants or policy writer, community education specialist
and partnership coordinator.
   Eventually, the position evolves into a full-time position because the need for more
public relations grows when key leaders see the worth and value the public relations
function brings to the school system or agency.

    NSPRA also has produced its own publication, “Raising the Bar for School PR: New
Standards for the School Public Relations Profession,” that provides a defined set of
expectations for your communications staff. The publication is available as available as
a free download at the NSPRA website (

Page 20                                                               telling your story
                                 Appendix 2:
                             FAQs about School PR
    The following is reprinted with permission from the “Starting a PR Program” section
of the National School Public Relations Association website (

What is School Public Relations?
      The NSPRA (National School Public Relations Association) professional definition
    "Educational public relations is a planned and systematic management function to
help improve the programs and services of an educational organization. It relies on a
comprehensive two-way communications process involving both internal and external
publics, with a goal of stimulating a better understanding of the role, objectives, accom-
plishments and needs of the organization. Educational public relations programs assist
in interpreting public attitudes, identify and help shape policies and procedures in the
public interest, and carry on involvement and information activities which earn public
understanding and support."

Why School Public Relations?
    If you ever need to explain to a school district why they need a school PR profes-
sional now more than ever, here's some information that may help:
    This is the media age: School communication needs have increased dramatically
and become more complex. A school district needs a professional PR person to develop
and execute its communication plans through both print/electronic media and face-to-
face communication, and to handle relations with the multitude of media that call
school districts weekly.
    Education is under attack: Public education is attacked from taxpayers, business
groups and others. A school district needs a professional school PR person to publicize
the positive news about student/staff achievement and programs, and to develop a
coordinated proactive, rather than reactive, approach that anticipates problems before
they develop. If there is no positive communication from the school district, the critics'
voices are the only ones that will be heard.
    The scope of successful school public relations has expanded greatly: From what in
the past was mostly written communication, school public relations now is a greatly
increased need for face-to-face communication with the many publics in your commu-
nity. A school district needs a professional school PR person to schedule community
relations programming, Realtor orientations, breakfasts with Chambers of Commerce
or clergy, and American Education Week open houses, to build informed support and
solid community relationships.

What Does/Can a School Public Relations Professional Do For a District?
    A school public relations person handles these major functions:
    ■ Public relations counsel: Provides public relations counsel, taking a proactive
stance. Anticipates problems and provides solutions.

telling your story                                                               Page 21
    ■ Communication with internal and external publics: Handles all aspects of the
school district's publications such as its external newspaper and internal newsletter,
among others.
    ■ Media relations: Writes news releases for all local newspapers/TV/radio; works
to get media coverage of school district news. Serves as the media's liaison with the
school district.
    ■ Budget/bond issue campaigns: Stays closely attuned to the entire budget-making
process and promotes community input. Develops budget/bond issue campaigns and
    ■ Communications planning/crisis communications planning: Writes/ develops a
communications plan for the district, detailing how to reach its internal and external
publics; writes/develops a crisis communications plan of reaching publics, gathering
the facts and dealing with media in a crisis.
    ■ Public relations research, surveys, polls, informal research: Conducts formal
and informal research to determine public opinion and attitude as a basis for planning
and action.
    ■ School district imaging and marketing: Promotes the district's strengths/
achievements, and its solutions to problems.
    ■ Student/staff recognition: Vigorously publicizes student and staff achievement;
develops staff and retirement recognition programs.
    ■ Information station for the district: Answers public and new resident requests
for information; maintains extensive background files; keeps district's historical and
budget passage records; and plans for school district anniversary celebrations.
    ■ Public relations trainer: Provides public relations training to staff and PTA's in
areas such as talking to the media, communicating in a crisis and recognizing that non-
teaching staff are part of the school PR team.
    ■ Community relations liaison: Serves as the district's liaison with community
groups such as civic associations and service clubs; helps plan/publicize district's par-
ent, senior citizen and community service programs. Develops ways to bring the com-
munity into the schools.
    ■ The "I's" are crucial: True communication, we know, is a two-way process of
both inflow and outflow of information. A school PR person, in essence, helps keep
both "I's" of the district open, and works to keep the public, in turn, both "I"nformed
and "I"nvolved in the schools.

Page 22                                                               telling your story
                           Appendix 3:
               Sample School Public Relations Policies
   The following sample school board policies are from the Tacoma, Wash., public
schools and the NSPRA resource files. They are reprinted with permission from the
“Starting a PR Program” section of the National School Public Relations Association
website (

Sample #1: Tacoma Public Schools
    The Board of Directors believes it is the responsibility of each Board member, as
well as each employee of the District, to actively pursue a two-way communications
program that highlights the educational experiences in the city's public schools and
promotes effective school/home/community partnerships.
    The Board recognizes that citizens have a right to know what is occurring in their
public school system; that Board members and all school administrators have an obli-
gation to see that all publics are kept systematically and adequately informed; and that
the District will benefit from seeing that citizens get all information, good and bad,
directly from the system itself.
    The Board affirms the following objectives:
    ■ To maintain an effective two-way communication system between the District
and its various publics which ensures:
    1) Dissemination of accurate, timely information about school policies, programs,
        procedures, achievements, decisions, critical issues;
    2) Interpretation of decisions and action;
    3) Elimination of rumors and misinformation;
    4) Programs and practices designed to provide an open climate which will elicit
        ideas, suggestions, reactions from the community and employees alike;
    5) An effective working relationship with the news media.
    ■ To maintain a Public Information Office which will coordinate the District's com-
munication efforts.
    ■ To develop and maintain an organizational environment where all District staff
members are aware that they share the responsibility for communication of school poli-
cies, programs and activities to parents, members of the educational and other commu-
    ■ To maintain a written plan of communication policies and guidelines which will
be available to employees and to the public upon request.
    ■ To support the establishment of a Communications Review Committee to review
and evaluate District-wide two-way communication efforts.
    "The Board of Directors of any school district shall have authority to authorize the
expenditure of funds for the purpose of preparing and distributing information to the
general public to explain the instructional program, operation and maintenance of the
schools of the district: Provided, that nothing contained herein shall be construed to
authorize preparation and distribution of information to the general public for the pur-
pose of influencing the outcome of a school district election."

telling your story                                                             Page 23
    Board members believe it is essential to the development of excellence in the educa-
tion of youngsters that the maximum possible knowledge about the goals, achieve-
ments, activities and operations of the school district be conveyed to the students, staff
and citizens.
    The Board therefore reaffirms its commitment to openness in relationships with its
patrons. The Board further believes that the citizens, as well as the staff and students,
should be consulted and involved in the problem-solving and decision-making
processes at as early a stage as possible. This involvement should be solicited actively
and honestly through a wide variety of means.

Sample #2: NSPRA Resource Files
    The public schools belong to and derive their strength from the people of the com-
munity. For a community to be supportive of its schools, the people must be knowl-
edgeable of the aims and efforts of the District.
    Therefore, the Board shall make every effort to:
    ■ Keep the public informed about the policies, administrative operation, objectives,
and educational programs of the schools.
    ■ Provide the means for furnishing full and accurate information, favorable and
unfavorable, together with interpretation and explanation of the school plans and pro-
    ■ Adhere to a policy of openness and honesty in communicating with citizens,
staff, the news media and other organizations.
    ■ Make available the background material, which is sent to the Board of Education,
to the public and news media through the Office of Communication Services; however,
this excludes confidential material, to be defined as materials regarding negotiations,
sale or purchase of properties, legal matters, and sensitive personnel matters.
    ■ Establish and support appropriate and effective communication between the
administration and other District employees.
    ■ Have publications prepared as needed to keep citizens informed about educa-
tional services, achievements, needs, costs, revenues, and expenditures.
    To ensure that citizens and staff have an opportunity to be informed about their
schools, the Board establishes an Office of Communication Services which will, among
other functions:
    ■ Provide the appropriate liaison services between the District and the news media;
    ■ Support, plan and execute appropriate direct communications between school
and home;
    ■ Assess the public's knowledge and attitudes about the schools, and use this infor-
mation in planning a communications program;
    ■ Assist in ensuring that communications plans and skills exist in each school and
    ■ Assist with the publicity for all District programs as requested.

Page 24                                                                telling your story
                               Appendix 4:
                       School Public Relations Plans
    The following is reprinted with permission from the “Starting a PR Program” section
of the National School Public Relations Association website (

    The role of school public relations is to maintain mutually beneficial relationships
between the school district and the many publics it serves. Each school district has its
own unique way of carrying out this role, but there is one common element of all suc-
cessful public relations programs: they are planned.
    A well-thought-out public relations plan will help ensure that a school district car-
ries out its mission and meets its goals with the support of its staff and community. But
where do you start? This tip sheet, developed from the resource files of the National
School Public Relations Association, provides a basic framework process for develop-
ing a district public relations plan.

The Four-Step Public Relations Process
   Exemplary public relations programs follow this basic four-step process:
   ■ Research: up front analysis on where the district stands in regard to all publics it
wishes to reach
   ■ Action plan: developing public relations goals, objectives and strategies that go
hand-in-hand with the district's overall mission and goals
   ■ Communicate: carrying out the tactics necessary to meet the objectives and goals
   ■ Evaluate: looking back at actions taken to determine their effectiveness and what
changes are needed in the future
   Keeping these four basic public relations tenets in mind, you can follow this step-
by-step process in developing a public relations plan for your school district.

Public Relations Planning Process
    ■ Variety assessment. Begin by meeting with the superintendent and school board
to discuss their priorities for district public relations objectives. Know the district mis-
sion and goals and be prepared to discuss how your program can help achieve those
    ■ Internal and external research. Before structuring the plan you must be aware of
where the district stands in the eyes of both staff and the community. There are a vari-
ety of questions to answer: Who are our publics? What are our publics' overall percep-
tions of our schools? What "hot issues" are circulating among staff and community?
What issues affecting other school districts may soon be coming our way?...the list goes
on and on. Base your research on your district mission and goals and use several meth-
ods. Tactics to consider: national studies, census data, telephone logs, media reports,
interviews with community opinion leaders, focus groups, written or telephone sur-
    ■ Develop public relations goals and objectives. Thinking first and foremost
about facilitating achievement of district goals, develop short-term and long-term pub-

telling your story                                                                 Page 25
lic relations goals to accomplish. It is advisable to develop these with input from a
committee representing board, staff, parents and outside community members.
Remember, to make the objectives timed and measurable so you will know if you
achieved them. Example: By the end of the school year, 75 percent of the district's
teachers will be involved in projects to improve teacher/parent relations.
     ■ Identify target publics. These "targets" are the groups of people that need to be
reached in order to achieve the goals. Primary publics are those most important to
achieving goals. In schools, they are often students, staff and parents. Secondary
publics are those who could be reached if money or time permit, or those who are indi-
rectly reached by public relations tactics.
     ■ Identify desired behavior of publics. This is a critical step! In order for the plan
to be successful, you must decide what you want the program to do. Do you want to
provide information? Or do you want reinforce or change the behavior of certain
publics? These questions must be answered before tactics are created.
     ■ Identify what is needed to achieve desired behavior. Using research data,
decide what actions must take place to create the behaviors you desire. For example:
You could find out by taking attendance that only 50 percent of the parents at your
school attend the Fall Open House. The desired behavior is to increase this number. A
follow-up written survey could help you identify the reasons 50 percent do not attend.
Then you can decide what actions to take to change this percentage.
     ■ Create strategies and tactics for reaching publics. Strategies are overall proce-
dures, like developing a media kit that provides general information about the school
district. Tactics are the actions that must be taken to carry out the procedures, like writ-
ing the press release or printing the folder for the district media kit.
     ■ Put your plan on paper. This is where you develop the budget, create a timeline
and assign responsibility for all strategies and tactics.
     ■ Implement the plan. After management/board approval, put your plan into
action. Keep your committee involved, and prepare to refine along the way.
     ■ Evaluate your efforts. Using the same methods you used in the research phase,
evaluate your plan. First, evaluate the planning process itself: what worked and what
didn't. Continue to evaluate your program as it is implemented to determine what
revisions may need to be made. Finally, measure your goals and objectives to deter-
mine whether you have reached them.

Prepared by: Jennifer Wayman Reeve, APR, Director of Communications
Colorado Association of School Boards, 1200 Grant St., Denver, CO 80203

Page 26                                                                  telling your story
                               Appendix 5:
                     Sample School PR Job Descriptions
    The following is reprinted with permission from the “Starting a PR Program” section
of the National School Public Relations Association website (

                     Sample #1: Mesa Unified School District #4

Position Title: Director III
Division: Educational Services
Work Year: 12 Months
Department: Community Relations
Location: Administration Center
Salary Schedule: Administrative

General Statement Of Responsibilities:
    The Department of Community Relations provides communication/public relations
services to the district, each department and school. The director functions as a com-
munications coordinator during emergencies on district or school levels, establishes in-
service training sessions, produces components for specific programs and activities and
publishes a newsletter for school district patrons periodically. The department publish-
es an employee publication on a regular basis.

Essential Duties:
    ■ Serves as information liaison between the total school system and the community
at large, represents the district within various community organizations.
    ■ Sets annual objectives for and evaluates the district's community relations pro-
gram, to include budget planning for meeting those objectives.
    ■ Serves as liaison person between the district and the news media and supervises
the production and distribution of news releases.
    ■ Serves as district spokesperson in areas of sensitivity or controversy.
    ■ Cooperates with district administrators and other staff members, as appropriate,
in publicizing and promoting performances, exhibitions, displays, dedications or spe-
cial programs sponsored by the schools and open to the public.
    ■ Provides professional public relations counsel and assistance to the administra-
tion, Governing Board, schools, parent groups and student groups.
    ■ Oversees the writing and production of the employee newsletter.
    ■ Prior to final publication, reviews and edits all district publications which will be
disseminated to the general public.
    ■ Recommends innovative avenues of communication for external and internal
    ■ Solicits feedback through formal and informal means on activities, products and
purposes of the community relations program and the school district in general.
    ■ Develops and maintains accurate records of the district's public relations program.

telling your story                                                                Page 27
    ■ Provides logistical support for all meetings of the Governing Board.
    ■ Expedites responses to inquiries and complaints received by the department from
citizens, news media and school personnel.
    ■ Conducts recognition programs for employees and students
    ■ Coordinates and manages city, state and national campaigns and programs.
    ■ Conducts information campaigns for district elections.
    ■ Researches and writes articles and speeches for the Superintendent and
Governing Board.

                             Sample #2: Administrative

Job Title: Director of Community Relations

Marginal Duties:
    ■ Provides professional assistance in the development of various publications
(brochures, newsletters, letters, information bulletins) for school and departments.
    ■ Provides in-service training as required on public and community relations.
    ■ Performs other tasks as assigned by the Superintendent.

   ■ Bachelor's degree in public relations, mass communications, or equivalent experi-
   ■ Professional experience in a full-time public relations position
   ■ Working knowledge of internal and external public relations programs
   ■ Mastery of communications skills
   ■ Understanding of the importance of two-way communication
   ■ Experience in planning, implementing, evaluating, budgeting and personnel
   ■ Good health, physical stamina, fitness and vitality
   ■ Accreditation by the National School Public Relations Association or Public
Relations Society of America preferred, but not required
   ■ Evidence of adherence to the code of ethics of the public relations profession

Supervision Received: Superintendent of Schools
Supervision Given: Community relations specialist and secretary to the director

                          Sample #3: Non-administrative

Job Title: Communications Specialist

   ■ Bachelor's degree in PR, communications or related field.
   ■ Two years of related experience in public relations and/or media work.

Page 28                                                               telling your story
    ■ Previous experience working with public schools preferred.
    ■ Knowledge of the unique district community.
    ■ Excellent verbal written and interpersonal communication skills.
    ■ Proficiency with current technology for performance of duties; including graph-
ics design and publication/print software.
    ■ Excellent analytical and critical thinking and judgment skills a must.

    ■ Disseminate information to the public and school district staff.
    ■ Evaluate and coordinate requests for community use of facilities, as well as
approval of event promotional materials.
    ■ Serve as editor/writer for district web site, newsletters and other publications
    ■ Generate newsletter stories
    ■ Coordinate layout, design and production of web site, newsletters and other pub-
    ■ Serve as communications liaison between the media and the district. Prepare and
distribute news releases, arrange media interviews and conferences and respond to
requests for information
    ■ Photograph district programs and events for publications and slide shows.
    ■ Determine appropriate communications for target audiences.

Sources: Ohio School Boards Association, California School Boards Association, and
North Penn (Pa.) School District

telling your story                                                            Page 29
Education Publications                     American Alliance for Health, Physical
American School Board Journal              Education, Recreation & Dance
(                             Reston, Va.
                                           (703) 476-3400
Education Daily (
                                           American Association for Adult &                      Continuing Education
                                           Washington, D.C.
Education Week (            (202) 429-5131

Educational Leadership                     American Association of Family and
(                 Consumer Scientists
                                           Alexandria, Va.
eSchool News (         (703) 706-4663
Harvard Education Letter
(                         American Association of School
Phi Delta Kappan (         Arlington, Va.
kappan/kappan)                             (703) 528-0700
Rethinking Schools
(                American Council on the Teaching of
                                           Foreign Languages, Inc.
The School Administrator                   Yonkers, N.Y.
(                (914) 963-8830                American Educational Research Association
                                           Washington, D.C.                           (202) 223-9485
School PR Resources
National School Public Relations           American Enterprise Institute
Association (                Washington, D.C.
                                           (202) 862-5800
Public Relations Society of America
                                           American Federation of School
International Association of Business      Administrators
Communicators (               Washington, D.C.
                                           (202) 986-4209
National Education Organizations
Achieve                                    American Federation of Teachers
Cambridge, Mass./Washington, D.C.          Washington, D.C.
(617) 496-6300 or (202) 624-1460           (202) 879-4400                  

Page 30                                                           telling your story
American Library Association                 Association of Teacher Educators
Chicago, Ill.                                Reston, Va.
(312) 944-6780                               (703) 620-3110                        

American School Counselor Association        Children’s Defense Fund
Alexandria, Va.                              Washington, D.C.
(703) 683-2722                               (202) 628-8787            

American Society for Training and            Consortium for Policy Research in
Development                                  Education
Alexandria, Va.                              Philadelphia, Pa.
(703) 683-8100                               (215) 573-0700                       

                                             Council for Exceptional Children
American Speech-Language-Hearing
                                             Reston, Va.
                                             (703) 620-3660
Rockville, Md.
(301) 897-5700
                                             Council of Chief State School Officers
American Statistical Association             Washington, D.C.
Alexandria, Va.                              (202) 408-5505
(703) 684-1221 ext.133             
                                             Council of Education Facility Planners,
American Vocational Association              International
Alexandria, Va.                              Scottsdale, Ariz.
(703) 683-3111                               (480) 391-0840                  

Association for Educational                  Council of the Great City Schools
Communications & Technology                  Washington, D.C.
Bloomington, Ind.                            (202) 393-2427
(812) 335-7675                     
                                             Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
Association for Supervision and Curriculum   Berkeley, Calif.
Development                                  (510) 644-2555
Alexandria, Va.
(703) 578-9600                               Education Commission of the States                                 Denver, Colo.
                                             (303) 299-3600
Association of School Business Officials,
                                             Education Leaders Council
Reston, Va.
                                             Washington, D.C.
(703) 478-0405
                                             (202) 261-2600

telling your story                                                               Page 31
Education Trust                        National Art Education Association
Washington, D.C.                       Reston, Va.
(202) 293-1217                         (703) 860-8000              

Education Writers Association          National Association for Bilingual
Washington, D.C.                       Education
(202) 637-9700                         Washington, D.C.                            (202) 898-1829
Educational Research Service, Inc.
Arlington, Va.                         National Association for the Education of
(703) 243-2100                         Young Children
                                       Washington, D.C.
Educational Testing Service            (202) 232-8777
Princeton, N.J.              
(609) 921-9000
www.ets.otg                            National Association for Year-Round
FairTest                               San Diego, Calif.
Cambridge, Mass.                       (619) 276-5296
(617) 864-4810               
                                       National Association of Biology Teachers
Institute for Educational Leadership   Reston, Va.
Washington, D.C.                       (703) 264-9696
(202) 822-8405                                           National Association of Elementary School
International Reading Association      Alexandria, Va.
Newark, Del.                           (703) 684-3345
(302) 731-1600               
                                       National Association of Partners in Education
International Technology Education     Alexandria, Va.
Association                            (703) 836-4880
Reston, Va.                  
(703) 860-2100                        National Association of Secondary School
Music Educators National Conference    Reston, Va.
Reston, Va.                            (703) 860-0200
(703) 860-4000               
                                       National Association of State Boards of
National Academies of Science          Education
Washington, D.C.                       Alexandria, Va.
(202) 334-2000                         (703) 684-4000                  

Page 32                                                        telling your story
National Association of State Directors of   National Council of Teachers of English
Special Education                            Urbana, Ill.
Alexandria, Va.                              (217) 328-3870
(703) 519-3800                     
                                             National Council of Teachers of
National Center for Education Information    Mathematics
Washington, D.C.                             Reston, Va.
(202) 362-3444                               (703) 620-9840                       

National Center for Education Statistics     National Education Association
Washington, D.C.                             Washington, D.C.
(202) 502-7391                               (202) 833-4000                    

National Clearinghouse for Comprehensive     National Education Goals Panel
School Reform                                Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.                             (202) 724-0015            
(202) 822-8405 ext. 68
                                             National Information Center for Children
National Coalition of Advocates for          and Youth with Disabilities
Students                                     Washington, D.C.
Boston, Mass.                                (800) 695-0285                 

National Community Education                 National Governors Association
Association                                  Washington, D.C.
Fairfax, Va.                                 (202) 624-5300
(703) 359-8973                     
                                             National Middle School Association
National Conference of State Legislatures    Westerville, Ohio
Denver, Colo.                                (614) 895-4730
(303) 830-2200                     
                                             National School Boards Association
National Congress of Parents & Teachers      Alexandria, Va.
(PTA)                                        (703) 838-6722
Chicago, Ill.                      
(312) 670-6782                                  National School Public Relations
National Council for the Social Studies      Rockville, Md.
Silver Spring, Md.                           (301) 519-0496
(301) 588-1800                     

telling your story                                                              Page 33
National School Safety Center           Sex Information and Education Council of
Westlake Village, Calif.                the U.S.
(805) 373-9977                          New York, NY                           (212) 819-9770
National School Supply and Equipment
Association                             U.S. Department of Education
Silver Spring, Md.                      Washington, D.C.
National Science Foundation
Arlington, Va.

National Science Teachers Association   Author Contact:
Arlington, Va.                          Nora Carr
(703) 243-7100                          Senior Vice President, Public Relations                            Luquire George Andrews, Inc.
                                        4201 Congress Street Suite 400
New American Schools                    Charlotte, NC 28209
Alexandria, Va.                         P: 704-552-6565 x145
(703) 908-0625                          F: 704-552-1972             

Phi Delta Kappa
Bloomington, Ind.
(812) 339-1156                         To Contact CUBE:
                                        Council of Urban Boards of Education
Public Education Network                National School Boards Association
Washington, D.C.                        1680 Duke Street
(202) 628-7460                          Alexandria, VA 22314-3493                 Phone: (703) 838-6704

Page 34                                                         telling your story
    National School Boards Association
   Council of Urban Boards of Education
             1680 Duke Street
          Alexandria, VA 22314
          Phone / 703-838-6705
            Fax / 703-548-5613
         E-mail /

Serving America’s Urban Public School Students

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